SELLING travel insurance is a moment agents dread – you’ve agreed a price, booked the holiday and now you need to ask your client for more money.


You know it makes sense. And so do they. Travelling without cover can be an expensive – and risky – business, and not just if the worst happens and they end up in hospital.


If they have to cancel their holiday, lose their luggage or have an accident, insurance can save the day.


Despite knowing all the arguments, there are still thousands of people prepared to take a chance rather than fork out a few extra quid.


Rock Insurance managing director Antony Martin said: “It is not uncommon for people to travel without cover and end up paying the cost when something goes wrong.


“In the US heart treatment can easily top $150,000.”


Citybond Suretravel had terrible tales of what can go wrong, including the story of a woman who fell off her horse in the US, broke her jaw, hips, fingers and wrist and cost her insurer £10,000.


Journeys Travel Insurance told of a 79-year-old visiting her family in California who fell, fractured her left knee and ran up a bill for £60,597.84. She had paid a premium of £299.99.


Still on-going is the case of a 63-year-old who went to Las Vegas for a family wedding and suffered a heart attack. The cost is heading towards $500,000.


We asked insurers to tell us true stories of what can go wrong, to provide agents with ammunition to throw at clients who hesitate to take cover.


Rock Insurance


A client skiing in the US hit a tree, bounced off a second one and eventually stopped after getting wedged between two more trees.


The result was two broken legs and a smashed cheek bone. The client had to be airlifted from the slopes and was taken to the local hospital for surgery and for the legs to be pinned.


Throughout the ordeal, one of the insurer’s nurses liaised with the patient and family and eventually formed part of the repatriation team as a nurse escort.


Because of the difficulties in getting a flatbed option out of the ski resort, the client and nurse escort were taken by air taxi to another airport so they could be repatriated via flatbed to the UK.


The medical team made appropriate arrangements for the client to be admitted to a hospital in the UK. An ambulance picked up the patient in London and transferred them to hospital.


The client had paid £55 for the ski insurance to the US. The insurer paid out £16,500.


Europe Assistance


In October 2005, Europ Assistance received a call from Lesley Bekic, on holiday in Turkey. She was 25 weeks pregnant and her waters had broken.


She went to hospital and was given drugs to stop labour and steroids to ripen the baby’s lungs, to give the child the best possible chance should she go on to deliver.


It was recommended that she be transferred to a hospital in Istanbul where there was a neonatal intensive care unit. Initially it was thought this would be a temporary arrangement until things settled down and EA could arrange her flight back to the UK.


However, a decision was made to deliver the baby by Caesarean section. Baby Bekic weighed 875 grams and was placed on a ventilator.


By December, Bekic was breathing unaided and on December 30, EA was given the green light to repatriate mother and baby.


The EA team alerted the Bekic’s local hospital to make them aware of the baby’s impending arrival and medical needs, and an air ambulance with a neonatal team was brought in.


As they went on board, an official wanted to know where the baby’s entry permit was, and levied a fine, which was paid by the EA repatriation team.


The total payout was £54,289 for a £30 insurance premium.


Citybond Suretravel


Early in February, Mrs X and her husband were staying at a four-star hotel, golf and country club in Portugal.


Both were avid golfers, with club handicaps in the UK, so naturally they were keen to spend a lot of time on the fairways.


On this particular day they had played the first six holes and had just teed off on the seventh. During the walk down to play their second shots, they saw a sign advising them they had to yield to the golfers on the third hole.


Just at that moment, a 55-year-old lady on the third hole played her shot, but failed to shout a warning.


Mrs X, was marking her score card at the time and didn’t move. The ball struck her eyeball at well in excess of 100mph and caused permanent damage.


The local hospital had no eye specialists to perform emergency surgery so Mrs X was flown back to Newcastle, where the procedure was carried out.


The insurer paid a personal accident claim for the loss of the eye, as well as the costs of being flown home and other expenses.


Their policy had cost them £17.63 each, the total payment was in excess of £30,000.


Preferential Travel Insurance


Mr and Mrs Johnson had booked a £387 holiday for two weeks in Majorca. Unfortunately on the second day of the holiday, Mrs Johnson, then aged 52, fell and suffered a spinal injury.


After spending three days in hospital in Majorca, where she was stabilised, x-rayed and monitored, it was decided that she would have to be repatriated on a stretcher back to the UK for further tests and treatment.


As Mr Johnson would be helping his wife on the flight, he also had to be brought home early.


The repatriation cost about £6,000, medical treatment cost £4,000 and the insurer also paid out £600 because their holiday was curtailed and £400 for expenses incurred – a claim of just under £11,000 after policy excesses. The premium was £24 each.